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November 10, 2005

News & Opinion: It's All About Balance

By: Dylan Schleicher @ 7:14 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture


Yesterday, I talked about the methodology that Alfred Marcus used to write Big Winners and Big Losers.

Today, I want to talk about the findings. In one word it is about balance. What Marcus found was that companies need to balance agility, discipline, and focus.

Balance makes for a resilient company that is able to thrive in the long run under all cirsumstances. Many managers make the mistake of thinking they know which wat things are headed, so they throw all their eggs in one basket. They purposefully become unbalanced only to regret it later when conditions change. In the heyday of the tech boom, Intel was way out in front in agility only to regret it later when company executives realized they had sacrificed discipline for agility and allowed arch-rival AMD to creep precariously close in the firm's core microprocessor markets.

They way to prepare for future scenarios of different kinds isto maintain a balanced portfolio of qualities. The unbalanced firm might achieve short-term successes, but it will not sustain long-term success.

What caught my attention is the unique message here. In business, we seem to want to be either right brained or left brained. It is either the innovate, be crazy, Tom Peters camp or the focus, focus, focus, Jim Collins camp. I realize the message is not as sexy or as clear as both camps would like, but companies need both. I think Seth said you need to be both creating cows and milking them.

In Appendix A of the book, I found the best summary of strategy books I have seen. Marcus is making the point about how business books are either agility-based or discipline/focus-based. I have published the whole thing over on the Excerpts blog. It is really interesting to read down through what all the heavyweights have had to say.

About Dylan Schleicher


Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.